PAKISTAN: Government must not allow violence to disrupt the address of the suspended Chief Justice to the Supreme Court Bar Association

The Asian Human Rights Commission has learned that the suspended Chief Justice, Mr. Iftehkar Chaudhry, will address the members of (SCBA) on May 26, 2007 in the premises of the Supreme Court, Islamabad.

It is a non-transferable duty of the government of General Musharaff to ensure that the meeting is allowed to proceed safely and peacefully and that no interference into the Chief Justice’s movements is allowed.

It is worth mentioning here that the Chief Justice was invited to attend the golden jubilee ceremonies of Pakistan’s Supreme Court by the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) and on his arrival at Karachi Airport on May 12, an attempt was made to abduct him by officials of Sindh Province. According to the lawyers acting for the Chief Justice, Mr. Choudhry was forced to leave the airport lounge by the high ranking officials. They supposedly placed a helicopter at his disposal but the Chief Justice refused to board it. At his refusal the Deputy Inspector of Police and city chief police officer manhandled him and used abusive language.

While this was going on the city of Karachi was turned into a war zone and in consequence of the resulting rioting more than fifty people were killed. On the same day a television channel, Aaj Television in Karachi City was attacked from two sides by the militants of the ruling party, MQM. The militants attacked the building for about six hours with firearms and at no time did the authorities or the administration intervene to stop the attack. This channel was showing live coverage of members of the ruling party’s attack on the supporters of the Chief Justice and the attack on the Sindh High Court building. Also the shooting incidents that were taking place all over the city when the suspended Chief Justice was supposed to visit were aired.

The Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court ordered all roads to be cleared for the Chief Justice and announced that he should be allowed to go where ever he wanted, but the administration refused to obey this order.

In view of these incidents and the bad record of the government to provide security for the Chief Justice since his suspension on March 9, 2007, it is feared that a similar incident will occur when Mr. Chaudhry is scheduled to address the SCBA on May 26. So far the government has turned a blind eye to the violence as it apparently suited their needs. The government may also turn a blind eye to violence instigated by the seminaries in Islamabad that have virtually taken over that city and even abducted police officers on several occasions. The AHRC therefore urges the government of Pakistan to ensure that no such interference takes place. The suspended Chief Justice must be allowed to address the SCBA in safety and the people of the country have a right to hear him, also in safety and security.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-105-2007
Countries : Pakistan,